Letters to the Editor, October 15, 2015

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 October, 2015, 4:52pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 October, 2015, 4:52pm

Knee-jerk reaction hurts healthy trees

I refer to the letter by Dr Wong Hong-yau ("If old tree poses a risk to public safety then it has to be cut down", October 7).

This statement appears to make good sense and few people would disagree. However the thorny problem is the assessment of risk and the degree of prudent pruning. Dr Wong is correct that the century-old Chinese banyan tree which collapsed on Bonham Road did so during one of our worst rainstorms. Such black rainstorms load the boughs and branches to an extreme degree: we all know what heavy work it is to carry a pail full of water.

This abnormal degree of water loading can threaten most trees in the city. Does this mean we should immediately fell all our trees, so that Hong Kong becomes an urban desert?

People must use some intelligence, such as recognising that walking under large trees or against retaining walls during amber, red or black heavy rainstorms is to take a tangible risk. Just as standing under a tree during a thunderstorm increases one's chances of being struck by lightning.

When our civil servants are put on the spot, they become completely risk averse. It is much easier to fell any tree that overhangs a public area rather than make a reasoned responsible assessment. This is what is happening.

The four banyan trees on Bonham Road referred to by your correspondent were radically cut down to the roots and will probably die. Surely the boughs overhanging the road and giving the most mechanical stress could have been cut, but those standing vertically could have been retained. Then those old banyans could have continued to grace our city.

Earlier this month, in Battery Path Central, healthy trees were cut down because the trunks were sloping away from the bank towards the light. They presented little public risk. Trees, especially large mature trees, are a necessity in cities, as they spread an air of calmness.

Without them, our nerves become frayed, and we would have to find many more spaces in our already over-stressed mental hospitals. Dr Wong's economic argument against trees is too simplistic.

I. M. Wright, Happy Valley

Nostalgia for British rule is misplaced

In justifying the showing of the old colonial flag in Hong Kong ("Beijing needs change of attitude", October 11), Henry Wong claims Beijing "has called pro-democrats traitors and asked us to be thankful for its rule". He further claims Hong Kong's chief executives are lacking in credibility and appear to speak for Beijing's interests instead of Hong Kong residents.

If any Beijing official called anyone a traitor, it wasn't a mainstream argument and Beijing has never asked Hongkongers to be thankful for its rule. Chief executives must represent Hong Kong citizens and the central government.

When local people got annoyed over mainlanders' bulk purchases of milk powder, the chief executive pushed for a limit on purchases. After the severe acute respiratory syndrome crisis, the then chief executive pushed for more mainland visitors to help the local economy. Following complaints about parallel traders, the chief executive called for limits to the number of visits that mainlanders can make.

Past British governors tried to stamp out any opposition to British rule.

Wong cites good social welfare policies pursued by governor Murray MacLehose. Those reforms were introduced to help silence opposition to British rule (as well as to counter the appeal of communist troublemakers).

Anti-mainland sentiment notwithstanding, Beijing has not stamped out freedom of speech in Hong Kong, or even freedom of assembly, as witnessed by its non-involvement in Occupy Central.

Maybe if enough local youngsters knew that Hong Kong passports were downgraded to deny Hong Kong people right of abode in the UK, they would stop waving the colonial flag.

And maybe if they had the chance to live in Britain and face racial discrimination, they would also stop waving the flag.

We must outgrow nostalgia for second-class racial status.

John Chiu, Wan Chai 

Postbox plan is an act of vandalism

Mike Rowse is spot on in his scathing criticism of Hongkong Post's proposal to eradicate the royal insignia from the territory's postboxes ("Don't hide Hong Kong's colonial past", October 12). Not only is this act of vandalism an insult to the queen, it also pays no regard to Hong Kong's heritage and is a waste of taxpayers' money.

Britain does not destroy artefacts left by its former colonial masters, the Romans, in fact it treasures them, as do most other civilisations.

The post office proposal is in principle a similar act of vandalism to that being perpetrated by Islamic State in Syria and the Taliban in Afghanistan where Roman and Buddhist artefacts have been destroyed.

I cannot believe that Hongkong Post is acting on orders that filtered down from Beijing.

I urge the post office to scrap this proposal and hope that certain sections of the Hong Kong community get over post-colonial angst and come round to respecting our heritage.

Eric Edwin Taylor, Sai Kung

Need for more temporary shelters

I agree with correspondents who have written about the homeless woman who passed away at a 24-hour McDonald's outlet.

This highlights the need for the government to deal with the plight of homeless people.

Poverty is widespread in Hong Kong and it is common for street sleepers to seek shelter in the McDonald's outlets that are open round the clock, because they have nowhere else to go. Other customers come and go and will generally ignore them.

The government needs to build enough temporary shelters to meet the needs of the homeless. Without a bed in these shelters, their only option is to find somewhere to sleep outside.

The administration also has to accelerate its public estate building programme.

There is such a limited supply of public housing and people find they have to join long waiting lists. If more estates can be constructed, waiting lists can be cut.

It also needs to look at possible rent adjustments and consider cutting rents for public housing tenants.

Rents in Hong Kong just keep rising, even in subdivided flats.

Some people are forced onto the streets and have to sleep rough, because they cannot afford the steadily increasing rents.

There is an urgent need for the government to try and deal with these housing problems.

Mario Man, Tseung Kwan O

We should not underestimate local teachers

I wish to respond to Kelly Yang's article ("Together, local teachers and NETs can boost English learning", October 7).

I agree with her that local and native-speaking English teachers should work together so that the gap between the two groups is eliminated. It is important that the abilities of local teachers are not underestimated.

I am impressed by the teaching skills of NETs and their ability to make lessons more interesting. As they come from different cultures, they have their own unique teaching styles. For example, they will sometimes use games and storytelling in class. As a student, I find this to be a relaxed and creative way to learn English.

However, we should not ignore the important contribution local teachers make to raise students' standard of English.

Students often struggle with some English terms and with grammar, and the contribution of local teachers in these areas is invaluable. It helps that they can speak Chinese and English, especially when you are struggling to translate a sentence in Chinese into English. The local teachers can recognise these weaknesses and help students with them.

I think NETs and local teachers are equally important in schools in Hong Kong. However, it appears that NETs have more fringe benefits and this must be rectified.

The implication is that they are better than local teachers and this is sending the wrong message.

Linda Ng Lai-yin, Kwai Fong

Early start help students concentrate

I refer to the letter by Yang Wenyi ("Later starting time will help students", September 21).

I do not agree with your correspondent that it would be better for students if the school day started later, at 9am.

The earlier start that is the norm in Hong Kong means an earlier finish and this is important. I think you can do your best work when it comes to studying and learning in the morning.

Young people should feel fairly fresh so long as they have had enough sleep. I think tiredness is not caused by too early a start, but by not getting enough sleep the night before.

Students have a lot of homework in Hong Kong. If they start and then finish an hour later, then it follows they will finish their homework an hour later.

As I said, you are at your best when you are rested and fresh in the morning.

It therefore follows that if you have to work late into the night, you can no longer perform as efficiently as before, because you are tired. It will be more difficult to concentrate.

There is no need to change the school hours.

Lovelyn Wong, Tsing Yi